Kindness and capers at t-ball
- Published: June 27, 2013
Vivian Grushon, 4, whose beauty reminds me of the teenage Natalie Wood in Rebel Without a Cause, watched us do our warm-up exercises. She tells me her brother Isaac, 7, had a “boo-boo” and couldn’t make it — he’d taken quite a spill, scratching himself on the knee, the forehead and the front of his leg! Sorry, Isaac.
We’d been sitting in the grass. “Put the bottoms of your feet together,” I just said, “and then try to touch your nose to our toes.” It’s a great leg muscle stretching exercise that every child, as limber as a freshly rolled string of dough, can do without batting an eye, one hardly any of us adults can do.
“Okay, everyone on your hands and knees!” I say. “I know what we’re going to do!” Caroline Tucker sings out enthusiastically.
“What?” I ask.
“Everyone crawl around two other human beings!” Caroline says, quoting me perfectly — and wisely: last summer I told the kids to do this, too, when a three-year-old boy, looking quite distressed, asked me what a human bean was.
After we race back to the diamond, I count kids. What had begun as one child and one mom when I showed up turned into 40-plus kids once we’d finished out exercises. I try to count, but these t-ballers are constantly on the move, leaping and racing about like toads in a thunderstorm!
Wyatt Fagan, 4, fields his first ball, but will not throw it to me. He walks it up to me instead. “Okay,” I say and as he offers it to me, but he does not let go of it until I have heard and understood what he has to say. And it is this: “You are my coach.” “What?” I say. And he repeats it, slowly, carefully. “You are my coach. You are my coach.”
We hold the ball together. We stand between the pitcher mound and home plate.
He is deadly serious. This is a declaration of note. It should be written down.
“You are my coach.”
“Okay,” I say, taking this seriously. “I am your coach. I am. Thank you.”
Justin Hamilton, 6, his dad serving as our third-base coach, comes to the plate and enjoins the infielders to make some noise: “Gimme some cheers!” he says. “Gimme some cheers!”
And they do: “Justin! Justin! Justin!” a half dozen infielders chant, obliging our young warrior quite nicely, aiding him in his fine work at the plate, the boy is a natural, whacking the ball sharply, cleanly, in one fell swoop, right off the tee.
Sophia Hale, 6, comes to the plate next, her ball cap tipped so far forward that I need to bend down and peek up and under to see her face — and when I do, I see how totally engaged she is, how bright and alert, the look in her eyes pointed and intense.
“Sohh-FEE-uh! Soh-FEE-uh! Soh-FEE-uh!” our chanting gang at the pitcher’s mound sings, and she, like Justin before her, displays an easy, graceful and strong athleticism with a quick, accurate, and powerful swing, she, too, knocking that ball off the tee on her first whack.
Henry Geis, 4.75, and his twin sister, Lucy, show up. At the end of the evening, Henry comes up to me for a little chat. I squat down so I am face to face with this beautiful boy. His good looks remind me of a young Buster Crabb, the only actor to play Tarzan, Flash Gordon, and Buck Rogers — the top three syndicated comic strip heroes of the 1930s. Well-built, muscular like a kid on his way to becoming a line backer — or the conductor of the symphony orchestra — Henry tells me with a profound seriousness, “We’re going on vacation.” What? “We’re going on vacation.” I nod, but don’t “get” it. Then he says, “We’ll be back.” And it dawns on me: he’s letting me know the family will be out of town, that they’ll miss t-ball, but that they want to reassure me that we Perry Leaguers haven’t done anything wrong here. That they’ll be back. They’re just going to be on vacation, that’s all. So, don’t worry, coach. Okay?
“Thank you,” I say to Henry, feeling quite moved, touched by what strikes me as sensitive and considerate act of kindness.
And that’s the Perry League, Yellow Springs’ non-competitive, beginner’s baseball program, the village’s t-ball program, for all our community’s children regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, ethnicity, ability or disability, sexual or spiritual preference or orientation. We welcome all the community’s children, girls and boys, ages 2–9. We’ll be out there at Gaunt Park every Friday night, from 6:30–8 p.m., for the next seven Friday nights — till our final night, wiener roast potluck picnic trophy night, August 9. Children can begin play at any time and there is no requirement to come every week. So, come when you can, come when you will. We’d love to have you, we really and truly would.